Location, Location, Location

The three most important factors in selling a piece of property. It’s the real estate agent’s mantra. I’ve come to think they are the three most important features of the iPhone camera as well.

I’ve found the iPhone camera disappointing in many ways. It’s hard to hold steady, no exposure control, digital rather than optical zoom (there goes the resolution), wavy video artifacts if you pan, and more. There are some good points as well, but I really mostly use it when I don’t have one of my other cameras available.

But the iPhone has one great feature. It’s the iPhone Location Services, aka GPS, that tags every photo and video with a geolocation, and the iPhone GPS blows away the GPS in either of my cameras.

I have an expensive Sony videocamera and my wife has a top of the line Panasonic point and shoot, both with GPS. They each take a lot of time to get a location fix in a new location. Many minutes for small changes in position, to hours if you move hundreds or thousands of miles. The iPhone never takes more than a minute or two, even with big geographical displacements, and usually locks in on the location in seconds.

The result of the poor GPS performance of our cameras is that anywhere from the first several photos in a new location to all the photos in the first half-day will not be geotagged properly. The Panasonic has a particularly annoying behavior. If it can’t get a fix, it simply uses the last known location. And of course, 99% of the time the reason it can’t get a fix is because it’s a long way away from that last location.  As a result, the first dozen or so photos we took recently in Amsterdam showed the location as Bandon, OR. The Sony, at least, doesn’t fake it if it can’t get a fix. It simply doesn’t show a location.

But I was prepared on our last trip. Anywhere we took photos, I took an additional photo, usually just a throw-away, with the iPhone. Once all the photos were in iPhoto, I just copied the location from the iPhone photo* to any photos from the other cameras near the same spot that didn’t get properly geotagged. Of course this method would also work for cameras without GPS capability. (Another tip: make sure the time and date on all your devices are synchronized.)

I’d rather not have to do this. Come on, Sony and Panasonic, surely you can incorporate a decent GPS function in your cameras. I’d settle for half as fast as Apple’s.

*It is easy, but not obvious. Click on the photo with the correct location and then click Edit/Copy (or Command-C). Select the photo(s) you want to change, then right-click on any one of them and select Paste Location from the contextual menu.